About one-third of all aircraft maintenance expenses are devoted to the engine, and when this vital organ needs to be overhauled, that figure could exceed the value of the airplane itself.
Many owners find themselves bewildered by the process of completing an overhaul. It was for that reason that one man took on the task of researching every piston maintenance shop in the United States—doing all the dirty work in the name of “helping people make confident, well-informed decisions” about aircraft engine overhaul.
Alan Depauw launched his new website, OverhaulBids.com, in March and since then, has already seen more than $10 million in projects. “Essentially, I solve the old world problem of calling around and rolling the dice,” said Depauw, a former Part 135 charter pilot and flight instructor. As stated on the website, OverhaulBids.com is essentially an Angie’s List specifically for engine repair. Depauw said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks once said that she found success because the cost of deciding wrong is high, and that is especially true with engine overhauls. The price of a piston engine overhaul can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, with many different shops quoting wildly different prices from one another. If you choose incorrectly, expect to pay more in money, time, and aggravation.
After deciding there had to be a better way, Depauw set out to research every piston maintenance shop in the country—an endeavor that took four months. Instead of contacting these shops as the entrepreneur of OverhaulBids.com, Depauw put himself in the shoes of a consumer and called as if he was looking to overhaul an engine for a personal airplane. After reaching out to 75 piston-engine overhaul shops in the United States, he narrowed his list down to 15 that now encompass his “A list” shops.
All users of the site will need to create a free account in order to locate and get bids from engine overhaul shops. Users can also solicit bids for repairs and inspections, or simply search the list of shops. The website also helps educate users about engine overhaul.
When a bid is accepted, the user contracts and communicates with the shop and pays the shop directly. Once the project is completed, aircraft owners are encouraged to write reviews, just as they would on a site like Angie’s List.
To date, OverhaulBids.com users have procured quotes for projects ranging from a prop strike to turbine engine overhauls for a fleet of military aircraft. Depauw has many more goals for his new venture, including expanding the network of maintenance shops to include all turbine engine overhaul providers in the United States and Canada (which he plans to complete by the end of August), but the one that trumps all is “helping people make confident, well-informed decisions,” he said.
Depauw said he wants to stay true to personalizing customer experience and getting personally involved with his clients’ projects, which he acknowledged can greatly vary case by case. “I like to offer personal help to people and not be just some impersonal website that procures quotes. I believe in connecting people with the right shops for their needs,” Depauw said.